This comment and my reaction from the previous post.
Matt Mikulla said...
Is it just me or did we spend 6 months at the U.N. discussing the possibility of invading Iraq. 6 months sounds like a rush to me
I do however agree that they are rushing the bail out using fear.
September 30, 2008 8:45 PM
Blogger Kevin Barbieux said...
What I remember about the lead up to the war was not discussion over whether or not to invade Iraq, but the Bush administration constantly pushing for the invasion and failing to get much support for it from the international community. And The U.N. doing everything it could to forestall the invasion, seeing that it was wreckless as well as immoral.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
This comment and my reaction from the previous post.
Or does this rush to bail out the financial crisis with 600 Billion dollars sound familiar? Like the rush to Invade Iraq.
Just think, if people actually held some meetings, and inquiries into the justification for invading Iraq, we would have not made that mistake.
To me this just seems like just the last digs into the fleecing of America by big money interests.
Program for homeless saving Tucson money
A program that keeps homeless people out of jail for petty crimes has saved Tucson $3.8 million in jail costs since 2000, a city official said.
Tucson city Magistrate Michael Lex told caseworkers and others who work with the homeless how the program works during the Tucson Planning Council for the Homeless annual conference.
Lex created what he said was Arizona's first mental health court to help the homeless get services to help them avoid arrests and jail time.
The city court's homeless program has resulted in 31,777 charges dismissed since the program began in 2000. Those charges represent 13,363 court dockets and nearly 6,000 people whose charges were thrown out after they completed a diversion program tailored to their needs.
Lex said sending homeless people to jail over and over again for petty crimes like urinating in public, trespassing and panhandling amounts to a life term on the installment plan. "It just doesn't work," he said.
hat tip www.azcentral.com
That's right, God Loves America. And you know why. It's because we are such a good people. It's because people in America are free to worship God. And that's why America has God's blessing. Especially after so many people put God Bless America bumper stickers on their cars, and signs in their yards. God listened, and God responded. Boy, did he respond!
Monday, September 29, 2008
I've run across many people who will look for one fault within a person, or one negative predisposition found commonly within a group, and will thus reject the whole person or group. Recently a woman from Europe told me that all Americans are stupid. When I asked her why she thought that, she said, "because of your President." So, because you have a moron in the White House, evidently all people in this country are morons. Lovely
Now, someone might chime it, (they usually do), and say, "Mr. Homeless Guy, aren't you doing the same thing when you negatively characterize urban loft dwellers?"
No. It is a completely different assessment that I use on these rich, snotty, prejudiced, disingenuous....etc, people, ^-^ No one can own these downtown lofts without first qualifying for them. That means first of all, that they have access to a lot of money, and made a conscious effort to qualify the purchase of these over hyped, over priced, housing units. And only people with selfish motives would make such a wasteful purchase. Just read the advertising copy for these places. They reek of attitude. "For Discriminating Tastes" "Luxury You Deserve" "Upscale" etc. And only snotty rich prejudiced, selfcentered, disingenuous (etc) people would go for that.
From the book of Proverbs:
Pr. 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Join in the fun while hiking the scenic trails of Edwin Warner Park, and enjoy food, games, inflatables, live music and much more in support of Safe Haven's homeless families.
WKRN News 2 Brad Schmitt will be on hand to emcee the event.
Participants receive a complimentary breakfast with admission, goody bag, and an event t-shirt. There are two paved trails to choose from, varying in length from 2.8-3.1 miles. Hikers may bring strollers and dogs.
$20 in advance, $25 day of hike for adults & children over 10 years of age; Children 10 years of age and under are admitted free; Teams of 10: $150
more event info
For more information
Edwin Warner Park
50 Vaughn Road
Nashville, TN 37221
The owners of the land came to the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came...
Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshipped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling. If a bank or finance company owned the land, the owner man said: The Bank — or the Company — needs — wants — insists — must have — as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters. The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. YOu've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.
The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew figures in the dust, and yes, they knew, God knows. If the dust only wouldn't fly. If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad.
The owner men went on leading to their point: You know the land's getting poorer. You know what cotton does to the land: robs it, sucks all the blood out of it.
The squatters nodded - they knew, God knew. If they could only rotate the crop they might pump blood back into the land.
Well, it's not too late. And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was stronger than they were. A man can hold land if he can just eat and pay taxes; he can do that. Yes, he can do that until his crop fails one day and he has to borrow money from the bank. But - you see, a bank or a company can't do that, because those creatures don't breathe air, don't eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so. It is just so.
The squatting men raised their eyes to understand. Can't we just hang on ? Maybe the next year will be a good year. God knows how much cotton next year. And with all the wars - God knows what price cotton will bring. Don't they make explosives out of cotton? And uniforms?
Get enough wars and cotton'll hit the ceiling. Next year, maybe. They looked up questioningly. We can't depend on it. The bank - the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't wait. It'll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size...
And at last the owner men came to the point. The tenant system won't work any more. One man on a tractor can take the place of twelve or fourteen families. Pay him a wage and take all the crop. We have to do it. We don't like to do it. But the monster's sick. Something's happened to the monster.
But you'll kill the land with the cotton.
We know. We've got to take cotton quick before the land dies. Then we'll sell the land. Lots of families in the East would like to own a piece of land. The tenant men looked alarmed. But what'll happen to us? How'll we eat?
You'll have to get off the land. ... It's not us, it's the bank. A bank isn't like a man. Or an owner with fifty thousand acres, he isn't like a man either. That's the monster.
Sure, cried the tenant men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours. That's what makes it ours -being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not paper with numbers on it.
We're sorry, it's not us. It's the monster. The bank isn't like a man.
Yes, but the bank is only made of men.
No, you're wrong there - quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it...You'll have to go.
But it's ours, the tenant men cried. We ---
No, the bank, the monster owns it. You'll have to go.
--John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
hat tip to davidsarahdark.blogspot.com
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Just a few minutes ago I wrote about the increase in the homeless population and the resulting increase in Tent Cities across the country. Then I read this:
In hard times, tent cities rise across the country
By EVELYN NIEVES – Sep 18, 2008
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A few tents cropped up hard by the railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the emergency winter shelter closed for the summer.
Then others appeared — people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy, or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no one was hiring.
Within weeks, more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless population. Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a "tent city" — an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go.
From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.
Nearly 61 percent of local and state homeless coalitions say they've experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The group says the problem has worsened since the report's release in April, with foreclosures mounting, gas and food prices rising and the job market tightening.
"It's clear that poverty and homelessness have increased," said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the coalition. "The economy is in chaos, we're in an unofficial recession and Americans are worried, from the homeless to the middle class, about their future."
The phenomenon of encampments has caught advocacy groups somewhat by surprise, largely because of how quickly they have sprung up.
"What you're seeing is encampments that I haven't seen since the 80s," said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, an umbrella group for homeless advocacy organizations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore. and Seattle.
The relatively tony city of Santa Barbara has given over a parking lot to people who sleep in cars and vans. The city of Fresno, Calif., is trying to manage several proliferating tent cities, including an encampment where people have made shelters out of scrap wood. In Portland, Ore., and Seattle, homeless advocacy groups have paired with nonprofits or faith-based groups to manage tent cities as outdoor shelters. Other cities where tent cities have either appeared or expanded include include Chattanooga, Tenn., San Diego, and Columbus, Ohio.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently reported a 12 percent drop in homelessness nationally in two years, from about 754,000 in January 2005 to 666,000 in January 2007. But the 2007 numbers omitted people who previously had been considered homeless — such as those staying with relatives or friends or living in campgrounds or motel rooms for more than a week.
In addition, the housing and economic crisis began soon after HUD's most recent data was compiled.
"The data predates the housing crisis," said Brian Sullivan, a spokesman for HUD. "From the headlines, it might appear that the report is about yesterday. How is the housing situation affecting homelessness? That's a great question. We're still trying to get to that."
In Seattle, which is experiencing a building boom and an influx of affluent professionals in neighborhoods the working class once owned, homeless encampments have been springing up — in remote places to avoid police sweeps.
"What's happening in Seattle is what's happening everywhere else — on steroids," said Tim Harris, executive director of Real Change, an advocacy organization that publishes a weekly newspaper sold by homeless people.
Homeless people and their advocates have organized three tent cities at City Hall in recent months to call attention to the homeless and protest the sweeps — acts of militancy, said Harris, "that we really haven't seen around homeless activism since the early '90s."
In Reno, officials decided to let the tent city be because shelters were already filled.
Officials don't know how many homeless people are in Reno. "But we do know that the soup kitchens are serving hundreds more meals a day and that we have more people who are homeless than we can remember," said Jodi Royal-Goodwin, the city's redevelopment agency director.
Those in the tents have to register and are monitored weekly to see what progress they are making in finding jobs or real housing. They are provided times to take showers in the shelter, and told where to go for food and meals.
Sylvia Flynn, 51, came from northern California but lost a job almost immediately and then her apartment.
Since the cheapest motels here charge upward of $200 a week, Flynn ended up at the Reno women's shelter, which has only 20 beds and a two-week limit on stays.
Out of a dozen people interviewed in the tent city, six had come to Reno from California or elsewhere over the last year, hoping for casino jobs.
"I figured this would be a great place for a job," said Max Perez, a 19-year-old from Iowa. He couldn't find one and ended up taking showers at the men's shelter and sleeping in a pup tent barely big enough to cover his body.
The casinos are actually starting to lay off employees.
"Sometimes I think we need to put out an ad: 'No, we don't have any more jobs than you do,'" Royal-Goodwin said.
The city will shut down the tent city as soon as early October because the tents sit on what will be a parking lot for a complex of shelters and services for homeless people. The complex will include a men's shelter, a women's shelter, a family shelter and a resource center.
Reno officials aren't sure whether the construction will eliminate the need for the tent city. The demand, they say, keeps growing.
Judge nixes Orlando ban on group homeless feeding
1 hour ago
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday struck down an Orlando ordinance that barred large group feedings for homeless at downtown area parks.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell said the city ordinance violates the constitutional rights of activists who want to feed the homeless.
Activists who had been feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park sued the city in 2006 over the ordinance passed that year.
Attorney Jacqueline Dowd, who represented plaintiffs including First Vagabonds Church of God and Orlando Food Not Bombs, said they were "thrilled" with the ruling.
"We are hopeful that this ruling will have an impact on cities across the country that are thinking of regulating people who want to help those less fortunate," Dowd said.
The city has argued that transients who were gathering for weekly meals create safety and sanitary problems for nearby businesses.
Telephone messages left after hours Friday for the mayor's spokeswoman, the city communications office and an attorney for the city weren't immediately returned.
There are so many homeless people in the United States that in every city, small, medium and large, the homeless are able to organize themselves enough to create tent cities. That should be a signal to the powers that be. And I think it is, because all the cities in the U.S. are responding in exactly the same way. Being that city mayors meet on a regular basis to discuss it's no stretch of the imagination to believe that they are orchestrating a coordinated response. And that response seems to be, "screw the homeless." Some how or other, all the collective genius of metropolitan governmental politicians and bureaucrats have decided to ignore all the experts in the homeless industry - have decided to label homeless people as criminals and punish them as much as possible, since the courts aren't doing enough to end homelessness. (Although it may just be that homelessness is not really a crime, and judges don't really have to be involved in violating people's civil rights.)
And so every city is going about destroying these tent cities, as if being homeless was a purposeful act of civil disobedience.
Over and over and over I tell the world, "this tactic will not work." "people do not choose to be homeless." "you will only make homeless people's homelessness even worse and more difficult to overcome." Oh, but these people in charge, all the powers that be, don't want to hear that. They want to justify their prejudice against the homeless. They want to free from feeling any social obligation towards the homeless. NOT until they begin to deal with the realities of homelessness will they ever be able to reduce the homeless population. AND every act they take with disregard for the truth about homelessness will only help to increase the homeless population.
The city of Nashville is in the process of dismantling a tent city. Here is a blog post about the exact same thing happening in Seattle.
IT'S SCREW THE HOMELESS DAY IN SEATTLE
or...POLICE DESTROY SHANTYTOWN IN SEATTLE, AMERICA
Latest news, as of two hours ago.
Today I am backflashing to my activist days in the 1960s and 1970s. In just one day, today, I have been protesting an unjust war, writing letters - e-mails, actually - about that Wall Street bail out to rescue greedy capitalists and now, advocating for the homeless. Then Bhenji Shanu Kaur wrote a comment, "Right on!" I am tempted to respond with the typical 1960-70s "Power To The People!" Tempted, but I'll refrain, as most of my readers were born at least a decade after all this excitement.
Today, in the 'richest country in the world' I am watching a tent city that was becoming a shanty town being destroyed by the police. As I write, the first homeless people here are being arrested and taken to jail I see a cop entering a pink tent. (These pink tens were given to the homeless by the Girls Scouts of America, donated from a breast cancer march, hence the colour pink.)
The residents have named their settlement "Nickelsville," after Greg Nickels, mayor of Seattle. I have even found a website about this called, "Welcome to Nickelsville."
Earlier today, their port-a-potties, the toilets were removed, much to the dismay, especially, of the women.
Some residents had started constructing semi permanent structures out of donated lumber. All this on city-owned vacant land.
Unlike some of the other sweeps arresting the homeless, the arrests are going peacefully, the police not being violent and the homeless, who have chosen to stay and be arrested, going peacefully as they are arrested. Of course, this is all on live TV. Now the broadcast station is ending its coverage; they are switching to cable coverage, much less visible, but still live on TV. I think I'll stay and watch, skip the courtroom shows that are usually on at this time.
This has been a bit disjointed, I realise; a write as it happens report tends to be. Now the cable news in talking about the presidential debate tonight, so there is no live coverage right now. I assume, though, the reporters are still there taping.
To go to the beginning. It is estimated that there are about 2000 homeless people - I believe that to be a very low estimate, as homeless people are very hard to count - in Seattle. This may seem a small number compared to India, but the United States of America is not India. There are sufficient funds here to provide decent housing, food, health care, all thew necesseities of life to all the people. Of course, financing America's foreign adventures is leaching a tremendous amount od resources from the country. This action today is a political protest. The residents of Nickelsville were given warning to move. The cry of "Move where?" led to this protest. There is a nearby parking lot, belonging to the state, not the city, where some have set up their tents, after the governor, Christine Gregoire, told them they could stay there 5-7 days. Then what?
Now we have the Wall Street meltdown to contend with, as well. According to President Cokehead Warmonger, Congress is supposed to allocate $700,000,000,000 (IR32,525,500,106,820 - I realise the commas are in the wrong places for Indian numbers. Live with it. This is a copy/paste from the Yahoo currency converter. I include the link because it is a useful converter of many different currencies.) to bail out big companies. As I understand it, this bill will not stop foireclosures on people's homes as much as it will aid the already super-rich. This remains to be seen.
Back to these homeless people in America, hundreds of thousands are even millions? Many, many, maybe most are mentally ill people who are unable to financially support themselves in a capitalist economy. Some are criminals who have served their sentences and now cannot find employment. The remainder are people who just don't have the resources to pay rent. Most of these people are men and women - and their children - who lost their jobs, for one reason or another and then lost their homes, either from in ability to pay rent or through foreclosure when they couldn't pay the mortgage. Some of these people have exhausted their savings, but most are people who survive from one check to the next, like me. "There but for the grace of God go I." OK, I admit I exaggerate a bit; my family would never permit me to live in a tent city or in a cardboard box under a bridge. But I hope the point has been made. Shall we all sing a rousing chorus of 'We Shall Overcome'? No, actually
I think "We Shall Not Be Moved" fits this one better. (That link contains a lot of great folk and protest songs.)
Friday, September 26, 2008
Nothing could be more crucial to parenting as hospitality. It is the most necessary aspect of raising a child. For with hospitality parents are required to recognize the person, and the individual that is their child, and to give this person full respect and consideration. It is striking how often parents fail to do so. And it is not at all surprising how messed up a child becomes when mistreated by a parent. Like the old saying goes, as the tree is bent, so shall it grow. Show me an adult that is lacking proper social skills, and I'll show you someone who was not treated with respect by their parents. And that old excuse is hogwash – where supposedly a perfectly good parent ends up with a malcontent for a child. Give me a break. Such things are only said by people who are afraid to look past the facades of our disingenuous society. People say, “oh, but they were good people. How could they end up with such a bad child?” By what measure are these people deemed “good?” Because they've never been in trouble with the law? Because they are hard workers? Because they pay their bills on time? Because they attend Church? Sorry, but none of these things guarantee good parenting skills. Especially good intentions. Saying, “I did the best I could,” is the worst excuse for poorly raising a child. Raising a good child requires a tremendous amount of effort. First and foremost, a parent should make the effort to learn how to properly raise a child. Getting knocked up does not also magically impregnate someone with good parenting skills.
A child is not an animal to be mastered, but a human to be loved. And mastering your child is NOT an act of love. Neither is beating your child, nor is belittling your child, or another other act that is demeaning or degrading. Love is only love when it builds a person up, makes a person stronger, teaches the person to love in return. If you treat your children with hospitality, they will treat you with hospitality in return. Anything less, and you failed to properly raise your child.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Second Life is kewl. No it's really much more than that. There is so much to Second Life that no one, not even the people who have been in it for 5 years, not even the tech heads who invented it, can come up with a complete and accurate definition of what Second Life is. After 5 months in-world, I feel I've only scratched the surface of this place, and all it's potential.
But to go deeper into it would require more dedication to it than I can afford to give, at the moment. So, I'm thinking it's time for a break, for a while.
I've done a lot, seen a lot, learned a lot, with my time in Second Life. I recommend it for everyone. There are teen areas that are somewhat protected. And Second Life does offer PG areas. But I don't know anyone who can, or even wants to, restrict themselves to these areas. =)
But I have to take care of some other issues now, issues involving real life. Once that is squared away, "I'll be back."
I saw it on CNN. It echos a popular sentiment among a lot of Americans today. And it's a lie. The man said, "Socialism is Un-American." What a load of crap. Just read the Constitution, especially the Preamble. Read the Gettysburg Address. The founders of our country. The great leaders who made our country possible, all believed in socialistic ideas. Socialism is just a way that we Americans can all work together and share and support each other, and allow us all to grow and prosper.
During the advent of industrialization, the people who found themselves making fortunes on the backs of underpaid workers learned that if you remove the socialistic ideas our country was founded on, it is much easier for them to rape and pillage this country.
Big business fears having to pay their fair share, which is what socialistic ideas and laws will require of them. And that will definitely cut into their profits. But it also means that there will be more money for the average citizen, and for health care, and for civil services like police and fire fighters and public schools.
Our government is designed to protect our country. And it does this by making certain that the foundation of our society stays intact. That is why it is so important for government to protect all the rights of all the citizens, and not just a select few. Protecting businesses, and neglecting the general citizenry damages our society more than any terrorist could accomplish. But big business doesn't want folks thinking like that. For the people in big business they willingly sacrifice their own lives for the sake of the business, and they expect everyone else to do so as well. But that is just wrong headed thinking, which could only lead to disaster.
This lie that Socialism is Unamerican is causing our country to disintegrate, and it's time we stopped listening to it.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Hospitality is not something you do “to” people or even “for” people. Hospitality is only hospitality when you do it “with” people. It's a togetherness thing.
One of the great themes of the Bible is the need for, the call for, hospitality. But how much real hospitality actually happens?
Americans may brag about the amount of charity it gives, but when you measure that against how much Americans take, their charity ends up in a deficit. That's because it's devoid of hospitality.
And when you look at the important issues today, you see that we are suffering from a lack of hospitality. And true hospitality is really the only thing that will save us, our economy, our society.
Actually, it is the very act of people taking more than they need, or deserve, from others that creates the need for charity in the first place. If people providing food would set the price of food at an affordable price – if people providing houses would set the price of the houses at an affordable price, then others would not be forced to ask others for assistance in paying for these and other essential things.
Of course all blame, and all faith, is put in the open and free market. Business owners, big and small, tout the benefits and equality of that system. They say things like, “the market is self correcting” or “a thing is worth what people are willing to pay for it.” And of course the great excuse for all their business activities, “It's not personal, it's just business.” They say this as if commerce, and business, and markets, are all entities separate and autonomous machinery that operates outside of human influence. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every business decision is really a human decision. Every market fluctuation is really the result of human decisions. Actually, markets, business models, capitalism, are just labels for abstract ideas. They are concepts that may be used for measuring and counting – but what they measure and count are the actions of humans.
And so, markets and business dealings, etc, are only fair and honest and self correcting as the people behind them. And just where is the honest businessman? Give me a break. An honest business person will always lose out to a dishonest one. And so it's built into the very framework of our economy, that people will be less than honest in their dealings with each other. Of course there's a lot of denial about that dishonesty as well. Much of what accounts for ego in people, especially people in America, is achieved only through self deception. And of course, people will excuse any immoral act, any selfish act as necessary for the needs of business – to keep the business afloat. Not once will they say to themselves, “perhaps we need to let this business die.” Such a thing is looked on as failure. And business people shun failure. Only perfection and success will do for the business person. And so all others work to make themselves appear perfect at the expense of truth. And this paradigm has filtered throughout our entire society. So much so that it is a given that a person will even lie on a job application to McDonalds. Of course potential employers will work hard to filter out all people who lie on their applications. All the while that employer will be lying it's ass of to its customer base. And this kind of process, this hypocrisy, is bound to have drastic negative consequences.
Being that we live in community, and within a society, that we really do need each other to survive this world, it only stands to reason that we all find ways to work “with” and be supportive of each other in all our dealings. When we lose site of this, our community is denied, our society falls apart. And it is real human beings that suffer.
Our economy is in the toilet, and it is the selfish and inconsiderate who are to blame. It is the fault of people who refuse to accept a role in the social make up of our society, all the while taking as much as they can from society for their own selfish benefit. It is the fault of people who will not give to charities. It is the fault of people who make charities necessary. It is the fault of people who say they cannot afford to give to charities, to give to the less fortunate, and yet squander billions of dollars on bad investments.
And yet this isn't just the fault of the rich billionaires and millionaires, although they do deserve much of the blame. It is also the fault of everyone who agreed with, and supported the wealthy. It's like the football fan, who lives vicariously through the successes and other exploits of his favorite football team. The fan does not really benefit in any way by the success of the team. Actually the fan sends his hard earned money to the team by purchasing all the teams paraphernalia, and yet all he has to show for it is the claim that he supports the team. And so we have so many people, so many poor people, struggling to pay their own bills, giving their support to the big business owners, mostly through their political votes, allowing the businesses of America to grow and become even more influential, and to justify even more selfishness. And all the poor person has to show for it is...nothing really tangible. Just a claim that the team he supports is hopefully the winner. This need of people to attach themselves to others more powerful, more successful than themselves proves just how screwed up people have become through the influence of the current “market.”
Real hospitality is not found in America's economy today. And it is really the only thing that can save it.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
As it should be, these articles should be preferenced with a statement that most of the churches participating in Room In The Inn, do an acceptable job in caring for the homeless in their charge. I'd go so far as to say 90% of the churches are ok. That's not to say that they are perfect. There is always room for improvement. But, that is a subject for another day. What I am focusing on now are the 10% of churches that actually do more harm than good to the homeless. This ten percent would amount to approximately 15 churches, which for the good of the homeless, should either make radical changes to their Room In The Inn program, or drop out altogether. You see, Room In The Inn is supposed to be fulfilling the needs of the needy and homeless, not the needs of the churches. And it is the self centeredness of some church goers that is at the root of the problem.
Most simply defined, in the problem churches, people hosting the homeless either pay too much attention or not enough attention to them. And that really isn't such a fine line. There are many ways in which a church can work within these parameters, and avoid the pitfalls of neglect or abuse of homeless people.
On the, “too much attention” side there are churches operating as either a prison camp or a bible camp. In the prison camp churches, the church members act not a christians to the needy, but as prison guards expecting a riot to break out at any moment. The homeless are sequestered to a part of the church as far away from other church members as possible, save for the one's overseeing the program. And the place the homeless are usually kept is an undesirable place, some basement or storage area. This also keeps the homeless far away from the normal church facilities. These churches are not very interested in sharing their blessings with the homeless.
And, in these churches, every move by the homeless is questioned or challenged. The people from the church are constantly taking a head count of the homeless, and if they come up short, they get into a panic, searching high and low for the missing homeless person, only to find the person in the restroom, or outside smoking a cigarette, etc. Their constant worry over what homeless people might do is greatly out of proportion to what actually happens. Certainly, a church may want to take steps to protect their property, (although that reeks of the materialism that Jesus preached against). And this is usually the only contact that the homeless and church members have, at these churches. Yes, from time to time, a homeless person may step outside the bounds of what is proper, but that is no justification for treating all homeless people, all the time, as criminals on the verge of mayhem. Being subjected to this kind of treatment is demoralizing of the homeless, to say the least.
The other type of detrimental “too much attention,” is the church that over produces their program, so that every minute of homeless people's time with them is scripted. In this the homeless person never has any time to himself will at this church. Most homeless people want to get as much rest as they can, being that homelessness is a great strain on people. But the church people will not leave them alone, and will insist that the homeless people in their charge participate in their predesigned activities. Mostly these activities are designed to convert the homeless, not just to Christianity, but to that particular church's brand of Christianity. One of the reasons homeless people chose Room In The Inn over the rescue mission, is that most of time, during Room In The Inn, the homeless are not subjected to proselytizing from overly zealous evangelicals. Sure it is good for the people of the churches to be open and willing to talk to the homeless, and to even befriend a homeless person if the occasion calls for it. But some churches press too hard, expecting the homeless to be always enthralled with the performance done in their honor. And the church expects the homeless to entertain them with stories of the streets and travels. It all seems disingenuous. It is all done without consideration of what each homeless person in their care really needs or desires. Instead, the church is using the homeless for its selfish concerns. They spend most of the time patting themselves on the back for what they've done for the homeless, without considering whether or not it is actually something the homeless need or want. It's a one-sided relationship usurping dialog and communication, which is the cornerstone of true hospitality.
On the flip side is the neglect. There seems to be very few people from the church involved in their Room In The Inn program. And those who are seem unhappy to be there, as if someone else had chided them into it. They are reluctant to talk to any of the homeless, and will often avoid explaining the particular house rules of the church to the homeless – where and when the meal will be served, how to get and place their cots, where the restrooms are located, etc etc. This makes the homeless feel very unwelcome, as well as lost within the church. These are also the same churches where the homeless find themselves having to sleep on filthy army cots or unwashed mats, in rooms without proper heat. One such church even had a softball sized hole in a window that they never repaired, never even boarded up, so that through out the winter, the cold are was able to fill the room unabated. These are also the churches where the homeless find themselves still hungry, even after the meal. And usually, there are no showers, and one small restroom with only one commode for all 12 or more of the homeless to share. And these are often churches that have more resources but just refuse to share them with the homeless.
Truly, if your church is too poor to properly care for the homeless you bring in, best to save your money, leave the homeless to find other lodgings, and fix your windows and plumbing, take the time to actually sweep and mop and clean your toilets. Put some weather stripping around your doors, etc. With all the money you'd save on your heating bill alone, you could then rejoin the Room In The Inn program with a respectable offering for the homeless, and God.
All of these problems reflect a lack of consideration, and thus a lack of respect, for the homeless. And, being dealt this kind of treatment – people being inconsiderate, and disrespectful towards the homeless, only worsens a homeless person's situation.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I've been a lurker on your blog for a couple of years now.
Thought I would share that some of the things you have written helped
me deal with a real challenge, which was my choice to help a 24 year
old mentally ill young man get medical care to save his life. I
checked your blog a lot to get perspective on what people who aren't
housed go though. It was valuable and helpful to me to read all the
different perspectives you presented.
My family and friends thought that I was crazy for doing it. The truth
is was that it was really really hard , but that it has been of the
one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. My friend was
sometimes psychotic and angry and I put myself in harms way. I also
got to know a person who is creative, insightful and highly
intelligent. He will be starting college in 2 weeks.
I feel like I have learned the following:
That it takes a long time for someone to get their life stabilized,
even if they want to. They need chances and compassion and resources
without judgement , and understanding that it is easy for someone who
is not housed,to lose valuable posessions again and again and have a
lot of setbacks.
Even psychotic angry people deserve medical care if they are seeking
it, and someone who can really listen to their cries for help. My
friend went from clinic to clinic freaking out and noone helped him
until he went into respiratory arrest and started having seizures. I
wondered if he had a major medical problem that was going to kill him
because it seemed like he was at death's door.
As it turned ou he needed his wisdom teeth out. I took him to over 5
different dental clinics and 10 appointments before we could finally
get an appointment to get that done. Once the teeth were out, his
health stabilized. It wasn't rocket science, but the public health
establishment sure made it seem like it.
I truly believe that as a country need to spend money on helping
stabilize people like him, helping people who just need a little lift
up to get housing do that. It was one heck of an eye opener.
please feel free to post this if you like.
It has been great to see you blog about the changes in your life and
the things you have learned on the journey.
Just wanted to let you know that the free work you do makes a difference.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Well the weather has turned a little cooler, meaning that seasons are about to change. Autumn is coming and soon after will begin the Room In The Inn program. Room In the Inn, is a winter shelter program for the homeless in Nashville. about 150 area churches will, once a week or so, take homeless people in for the night, feeding and lodging them in their church facilities. Its a great program. Perhaps the best option for the homeless, with a great impact on everyone's lives. Both homeless people and church people are changed for the better through this program. Everyone involved talks of the blessings they receive for their participation.
Yet, it's not a perfect program, and I think it could be better in several ways. And here I will attempt to address certain issues with the program, in hopes that things become even better than they are, with Room In The Inn.
The variety of people in homelessness is extreme. Perhaps because all homeless people, despite their type of homelessness are all clumped together and treated the same. This alone is not the best situation for homeless people. Especially if the desired end result is for homeless people to become homed. All the various types of homeless people have to live in very close proximity to each other. And this can cause strife for the homeless population. It would be a much better situation if say, all the alcoholics were put together, separate from all the mentally ill, and the mentally ill were segregated from the aggressive predatory homeless. And it would be great if all the predatory homeless were all put in jail. But anyway. That's not the situation we have. And there's not much hope for that ever happening in the future.
For the homed people with the resources necessary, they naturally segregate themselves. For the most part, all the rich white snotty people live in one area of town. All the black middle class blue collar workers live in another. And you can pretty much map out any city this way, in that most all birds of a feather, flock together. They are amongst people will similar likes and interests and mindsets - which provides for them a certain peace and contentment.
Of course overcrowding alone will cause strife among any group of people. And all homeless shelters are overcrowded. One of the great benefits to Room In The Inn, is that each church or group takes only 12 or so homeless people a night. But, there is not much more done to separate the types of homeless people being sent to each church.
As it happens that perhaps only 10 percent of homeless people could be labeled, "trouble makers." in a group of a dozen, there is a good chance that one or two of them will indeed be a problem for someone during the evening. Needless to say, homeless people know not to mess with a "homed" person, as that would bring a whole world of trouble into them. So, mostly the homeless trouble makers cause problems only for other homeless people. And, of course, they will only cause trouble for the other homeless if they believe they can get away with it.
And that brings me to most important issue I can think of for Room In The Inn. There are some churches that at some time or another will leave the homeless alone to themselves. And it is at this time that problems arise.
All sort of petty and not so petty issues arise in such circumstances. Intimidation is common. Theft is another, and it can happen right in from of the person being robbed, if they are intimidated enough. But actually, all sorts of hooliganism can take place when the homeless are not properly supervised.
And most of the homeless, who are being mistreated by others will not say anything. One reason for this is the very real threat of retribution for "tattling" on other homeless people. Another reason is that proof of being wronged by another homeless person is impossible to prove. The wrong doer will completely deny it, and will even get a friend to corroborate his lie if possible. And even if the homeless person makes a complaint of being mistreated by another homeless person, the administrators will often discount or down play the events. If there is a fight between two homeless people, regardless of who instigated it, both parties involved will be punished for it. And so many homeless feel it useless to defend themselves. And this just encourages the trouble makers all the more.
There have been times when one of the administrators of the "Campus" (the organization that operates Room In The Inn) will make an announcement over the intercom, thanking the homeless for an efficient and peaceful evening. Which is so ironic, considering that the evening was only efficient and peaceful for the administrators. Such is only achieved when the predatory types are allowed to do what they do without complaint from the other homeless. There comes a point when people get so tired of being abused that they give up and allow the mean spirited homeless to walk all over them without complaint. At the Campus, during the processing of the homeless for Room In the Inn, their are administrators only at the beginning and ending of the line. Yet a whole lot of disrespecting of people happens in between - where the administrators cannot see it. Of course over the many years of Room In The Inn, the homeless have attempted to say something, to educated the administrators of what's really happening, but they don't respond. And this too discourages the homeless from making formal complaints about important issues to the people in charge.
In years past, this was not such a big issue, but there seems to be a certain complacency on the part of the administration - and a bit of burn out too. Perhaps they just don't have the energy for it anymore. Dealing with homeless people and their issues is very exhausting work. Burn out comes quickly, which is why I and others always advocate term limits for people working in the homeless industry. It seems to be that after two years of working with the homeless, most people lose their enthusiasm for the job. They become cynical and spiteful and actually become more of a problem than a help to the homeless. Only a handful of people, that I have seen, have been able to maintain a real spirit of hospitality and genuine concern for the homeless, without waver. Father Charlie Strobel, who created Room In The Inn, is one such person. But he's semi retired and the people who have replaced him just don't have the dedication to service that he did. Of course these are good an caring people, wanting to do well for the homeless, but it's easy to see that this kind of work is more of a struggle for them. To them it's more of a job than a calling. And they are must less willing to go the extra mile for the homeless.
A lot of the problems that arise could easily be diminished if not completely abolished if there were more people on staff during Room In The Inn - both at the Campus and at the area churches.
Most of the churches involved in the program do an exemplary job, and certainly all are adequate to a degree. But still problems arise that only the homeless are privy to. And these problems arise when the homeless are left to themselves. Sometimes a church just won't have enough volunteers to watch every thing that happens with the homeless in their care. Sometimes the homeless are just neglected.
Some churches, after bring the homeless to their facilities, and feeding them, will sequester the homeless into some basement or back area of the church. And the church people are not seen again until the morning. Well, between dinner and breakfast, while no one is watching the homeless, something unpleasant usually happens. This is completely unnecessary, and certainly detrimental to the homeless. And all it would take to fix this problem is for someone, or some group of volunteers from the church to actually spend the night with the homeless, in the same room, if not within earshot, of the homeless. Some hosts at churches will say that nothing ever happens with the homeless, but that is only while they are around the homeless. And so they will justify staying at a distance from the homeless. But just because they don't see things happen, doesn't mean they didn't happen.
Some churches have a reputation among the homeless as being unpleasant places to stay. And the homeless, if given the choice would actually stay at the rescue mission than at some of the Room In The Inn churches. And you know, the rescue mission isn't very favored among the homeless either. And these churches are easy to spot. just watch as the homeless are being called to a particular church. The homeless will hesitate in coming forward when there name is called - will excuse themselves to the restroom in hopes of being passed over for that church. And once the call for the 12 homeless for that church is concluded, a cheer will go up among the homeless, happy that they did not get called to go there. And certainly the administration is aware of this. And yet over the years, they have done nothing to address the problems at some of these churches.
Safety is just one issue that needs to be addressed. Other issues will be discussed in future posts here.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
This is an extraordinary photo essay about Nashville's Tent City.
And the following is an article from The Tennessean
Through seven years in a tent, where the elements leak through a tear in the tarp that covers him and rats occasionally scurry across the earthen floor, Harold LaVelle never thought about where else he would want to live.
The 62-year-old was driven off the downtown streets years ago by cops and dangerous drifters. Now, he lives where the homes are made of found materials: sheets of plastic, portable toilets, scrap wood and old couches. There are no bathrooms, no electricity or Dumpsters. Dogs on the loose play together. Flies buzz. Trash piles up.
When asked where he'll go when the camp, known as Tent City, is shut down for good, LaVelle quietly stroked his beard. His eyes filled with tears.
He pointed up, toward the sky.
Ending homelessness in Nashville is a clear common goal, although motivations run the gamut and there's a mixed bag of approaches. From the government comes punishment and compassion but few solutions.
There are nearly two dozen campsites tucked into the nooks and crannies of the wooded area off Anthes Drive, just behind the railroad tracks and alongside the back of Inner City Ministries.
Last week, Metro police officers told residents at the decades-old campsite that they were trespassing. Officers nailed brochures to trees listing places to get help. Fliers they passed out said everyone must be out by Sept. 22 or face prosecution.
Most of the residents have been prosecuted countless times already, for walking along the railroad tracks, drinking in public or sleeping in a downtown growing weary of their presence. For a year, the police department has paid for extra officers to write tickets each week, an attempt to make the downtown more livable for urban residents.
More than 1,200 times between July 2007 and August 2008, people were written citations or arrested — and that doesn't count the violations that patrol officers write on their daily beat.
They call them "quality of life" issues: aggressive panhandling, public urination, blocking passageways and other violations of Metro ordinance often broken by those who live on the street.
Steve Samra, an outreach worker with the Park Center, goes to the camp almost daily, armed with tobacco, bus passes and a van to take people to doctor's appointments. He's working feverishly now, networking on behalf of Tent City's residents, looking for a real roof to put over as many heads as possible.
Howard Mercer considered Tent City his refuge. He grew tired of the police presence, downtown and at the men's rescue mission where he slept.
"They were always arresting and handcuffing," Mercer said, leaning shirtless out of the door of the home he shares with a roommate, a construct of metal and scrap wood, wrapped in an old concert poster. "Here? Freedom."
Stabbing rushes closing
Violence shattered the limited comfort of the campsite over the Labor Day weekend. Then came more police and a pending order to clear out.
Police say Lowell Parker, 37, walked from Tent City to the riverfront for help after his stomach was sliced open. The police department took notice.
The camp had been on the chopping block earlier in the month, but city officials and advocates decided to start a cleanup effort and hoped to postpone a decision. They created a list of actions, including requesting toilets and Dumpsters and expanding outreach programs.
But after the stabbing, it seemed all bets were off.
Later in the week, on Friday, police went to Tent City and arrested Robert Copeland. He admitted to the stabbing, Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said, and was charged with aggravated assault.
At a Metro homelessness commission meeting that morning, commissioners called for a delay in closing the campsite. Some saw the stabbing as a quick excuse for opponents of Tent City to shut it down.
"How many murders happen in the streets, committed by the youth?" asked Clemmie Greenlee, who sits on the commission. "That doesn't mean everyone has to move out of the projects … It is a safety and health issue, but that's because the state and government won't help clean it up."
Though piles of beer cans and refuse were still scattered through the camp, Samra said they had started to clean up and made great progress.
Some cities form camps
Nashville has been researching ways to make a Tent City-like encampment legal.
Metro Development and Housing Agency's homeless coordinator Clifton Harris said California, Kansas and upstate Washington all have campsites for their homeless.
He's researching whether Nashville can emulate one of those models as one way to serve the city's homeless population — estimated at 11,000.
Regardless, he says the real solution needs to be wide-ranging — ending homelessness.
"We do what we make a priority," Harris said. "And if homelessness is a priority, in any city, it will end."
Tent City's population swelled this summer to nearly 60 people, part of the reason residents think they are under more police scrutiny.
"More now, (the police) are less tolerant of us," said Anita Nuzum, 26, an on-and-off resident of Tent City for five years. "I know a lot of them drink and get rambunctious, but why do they classify us all as drunks, like we're all nothings?"
There is plenty of drinking going on in Tent City, unlike the Nashville Rescue Mission, where drinking isn't allowed. Those staying there often have to leave their belongings outside. They don't like to do that because what little they have usually gets stolen. Many residents prefer Tent City and say it's the safest place they can be.
John El, who goes by Ted, spends his days digging on the riverfront, looking for old bottles and glassware he can get sold on eBay. He keeps a BB gun in his tent to scare the rats. A table and chairs sit outside his fence, for company, but El says he's the solitary type.
"This is my peace right over here," he said. "I tend to my own business.''
Central Precinct Cmdr. Damian Huggins personally started to inform the residents on Tuesday afternoon that the camp, which stretches across private, city and state property, would soon be off-limits.
"Some people ask why an aggressive stance on this issue now," Huggins said. "But it's not an aggressive stance; we've brought more attention to the issue by going out and talking to people. We're seeing what resources we can get to folks before we go in there and enforce the laws."
Huggins gained attention in July — his first month at the helm of the downtown area — when he started a controversial program to offer homeless people a one-way ticket out of town, paid for by the Nashville Downtown Partnership. Community activists said that while the intentions may have been good, the offer could be intimidating when coming from someone with a badge.
The police department has severed its ties with the program he started, Huggins said.
But concerns about how officers treat the homeless remain.
Recently, a Metro police sergeant shocked a group of mental health workers and homeless advocates when he arrived at one of their meetings with a drunken homeless man in handcuffs.
The officer, Sgt. Mikell Wiggs, was not disciplined, Aaron said.
"Sergeant Wiggs meant well," Aaron said.
Personal approach taken
For some of the homeless, when they do enter the justice system it sometimes means getting them help.
Judge Dan Eisenstein typically sees only hard-core of fenders in his Mental Health Court. The minor offenses of the chronically homeless usually don't send them to Eisenstein's court. But last week, when it was Eisenstein's turn to preside over a General Sessions docket of minor offenders, he took a personal ap proach. He asked each person why he or she was homeless and what he could do to help change that.
Eisenstein put several people in touch with their families.
One man needed help qualifying for his disability pension and said he'd go to the Salvation Army if he had $10. So Eisenstein got him $10 and the help he needed.
"My thought is, what good is a two-day sentence for a trespassing ticket?" Eisenstein said. "We can at least give some options to people they might not think about, and help them if they can't do it."
Within the Central Precinct, there is a lieutenant who considers it her calling to do what she can for the homeless, and she acknowledges that to protect them, she often has to arrest them.
When several people stack up on a downtown grate on a cold night, Lt. Andrea Swisher knows that one drunken driver could take out the sleeping lot. And she thinks they deserve better than the rat-infested campsite.
"This site is not designed for human habitation," Swisher said.
"Campsites have showers and places for waste disposal. If someone does call 911, we need to park cars, walk a great distance and then try to find the person who needs help."
She knows this is a home, a community she's talking about. Some of the structures are extensive enough to keep the cold out. But sometimes, Swisher said, people in their comfort zone need a push to realize there's something better out there.
"In law enforcement, sometimes you have to help someone who doesn't want your help," she said.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Read the whole article at Indianapolis Monthly
Five years ago, Veronica Brown was homeless. Now she is achieving real fame and fortune in the virtual world.
By Megan Fernandez
Wearing antennae on her raven bob, Simone Stern sashays through the showroom of Style Starts Here, one of four clothing boutiques she owns and stocks exclusively with her designs. The shop has the soaring proportions of an airport terminal and ocean views at nearly every turn. And yet, the floor is bare. In place of racks of clothes, garments are displayed as pictures on the walls. Each photo is like a billboard, as tall as Stern herself, and each shows an outfit on a model.
The designer’s busty friend Brace Coral approaches, looking like she has come from the Playboy mansion in thong underwear and a skimpy tank top. This is not Stern’s work. Her style is better exemplified by the Simone number she herself is wearing, a black cocktail dress with spaghetti straps and an empire waist that creates soft, pretty movement when she walks. Or flies. Bidding goodbye to her friend, Stern levitates and floats across the store.
The airborne designer and her island-based store exist only on a computer screen, in the breakthrough—and often bizarre—online realm known as Second Life. Top fashion designer Simone Stern is really 47-year-old Indy eastsider Veronica Brown, a former truck driver who has reinvented herself as one of the first successful entrepreneurs in the emerging economy of the virtual world. Controlling Simone Stern from her laptop at Lazy Daze Coffeehouse in Irvington, Brown looks a bit tough, wearing nondescript black pants, an untucked blouse, and metal-studded clogs, cutting neither the ultra-chic nor kooky image one might expect from the prominent clothing designer she has become. It’s unlikely that Brown, lacking professional training, could live out this fantasy in the real world. But in the fantasy world of Second Life, she’s a bona fide fashion queen.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Coping with life is a skill that is learned. Certainly some people have a more natural gift for learning coping skills. Still without those skills our lives run amok.
What all is involved in learning life's coping skills? Just about everything, in one way or another, but our experiences and the conditions in which those experiences happen play a major role.
Parents have the first and most important influence on coping skill development. Children mimic as a way of learning. How parents respond to the world is how children attempt to respond, as well. Direct instruction of children is also important, but children also watch what their parents and others do. And to a child, what a person does is even more influential than what a person says, especially in terms of coping with the world. Extended family, teachers, neighbors - they all have an impact on the skills a child learns.
As adults, the influences of other people effects our abilities to cope. Being treated with love an respect builds person's coping skills, while a lake thereof diminishes a person's coping skills. Treat a person badly enough and they will develop mental health issues. And a lack of a healthy mental state negatively effects a person's ability to cope with the world.
Then there are more global issues, like the economy, wars, drought and famine, etc.
Of course there are many other factors involved affecting a person's ability to cope with life, but you get the picture.
Now, if we were to survey all people and assign their ability to cope with the world a place on a graph, on the horizontal line, we would find something similar to a bell curve - with the majority of people having average abilities to cope with life. On the far extremes of the line, we would find fewer people with either tremendous lack, or tremendous wealth, of these skills.
But more importantly is the vertical line on this scale that moves to the left or right, depending on the stress levels of living. The more stressful life becomes, the farther to the right the vertical line moves. And as has been chronicled time and again, life is becoming increasingly more stressful. So the vertical line is on a slow and steady march to the right.
This vertical line divides the people on the horizontal stress level bell curved line into two distinct groups. To the left of the line are all the people whose coping skills are unable to match life's stress, and thus become homeless, and on the right are all the people whose coping skills allow them to maintain a home.
As that vertical line continues to move to the right, our homeless population grows. And yes, regardless of what some people may say, even the government, the truth is, the homeless population in this country continues to grow.
Now, there are two ways to attempt to reduce homelessness. You can either give people more coping skills, so that their position on the graph moves farther to the right. Or, society can take deliberate steps to lessen the stresses of live, and thus move the vertical line farther to the left - meaning that more people will be able cope with it.
I do believe that there is a saturation point whereby a person has more than enough skills naturally necessary to survival and yet the stresses of life are even too much for him/her. And I think we are getting to that point very quickly. I say this because I see that people are having to make even greater sacrifices to cope with the stresses of life - mainly family sacrifices. And as families suffer, the chances for people in these families to develop proper coping skills becomes greatly diminished.
We would be much better off, and it would also be much more plausible, to concentrate our efforts on moving the vertical line back to the left. Once that line moves too far to the right, we will all be in trouble.